Are things finally clicking into place for Real Madrid?

Real Madrid could never have predicted the circumstances amid which it would materialise, but in the second half of Thursday’s 3-0 win over Valencia Los Blancos produced a performance close to what they had always envisaged for this group of players. It wasn’t perfect, but nearer to that mark than anything witnessed up until then this season.

Until that point, many had debated and discussed what exactly Zinedine Zidane wanted from his Real Madrid side. What he wanted them to be. The Frenchman had steadied the Santiago Bernabeu side, appointed late last season to get a head start on the 2019/20 campaign, but a lot of questions remained unanswered.

Thursday night might prove to be a turning point in this season’s title race and in Zidane’s second stint in charge of the capital club. With Eden Hazard fit again, a burgeoning understanding with Karim Benzema evident and Marco Asensio back on a football pitch after a year out of the game through injury,

There was movement all over the pitch. Ferland Mendy provided drive down the left side, contributing an excellent assist for Asensio’s goal with his first touch off the bench. Dani Carvajal offered something similar on the opposite flank which allowed Hazard the freedom to cut inside and link up with Benzema. The two players appear to operate on the same wavelength.

A midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Ernesto Valverde gave Real Madrid the right balance of control and energy in the centre of the pitch, with the usual centre back pairing of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane backing them up. All of a sudden, things came together very quickly for Real Madrid.

Of course, Los Blancos have produced impressive performances before this season. They have managed to keep pace with Barcelona at the top of La Liga and have put a number of opposition sides to the sword in the process. The problem is they have suffered nearly as many dips as peaks.

This time it felt different, though. In the past, Real Madrid’s best performances had been the byproduct of a sparking individual display by Benzema or someone else. Their performance against Valencia, however, was a result of their performance as a whole. Their new identity, which was evident perhaps for the first time this season.

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Will muscle memory be enough for Real Madrid this season?

Having come from behind to lead 2-1 Real Madrid appeared to be coasting to another three points to re-establish their advantage over Barcelona at the top of La Liga. Celta Vigo made the most of a late lapse in concentration from Zinedine Zidane’s side to snatch a point at the Santiago Bernabeu, boosting their hopes of avoiding relegation.

At the other end of the table, though, these two dropped points may prove costly for Real Madrid. The second Clasico of the season is now looming on the horizon, with Barcelona set to visit the Spanish capital on March 1. With just a single point between the two rivals that fixture could have a real impact on the Spanish title race.

Real Madrid have gone unbeaten in the league since losing to Real Mallorca at the end of October. Zidane’s side have built up a head of steam. Until the weekend they looked like champions-elect, especially with Barcelona struggling to adapt under a new manager and injuries crippling them.

Los Blancos were winning games through muscle memory. While their form has been impressive in a binary sense, they have won so many games by the odd goal here and there. Against Celta Vigo, the good fortune that Real Madrid have benefited from for months finally ran dry.

Of course, this good luck has become a trademark of Zidane’s stewardship of Real Madrid. The Frenchman is quite clearly a good coach, but it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint his individual strengths. This Real Madrid team is still a work-in-progress and that has shone through at various points over the course of the season.

“I don’t think he makes us weaker defensively, because he was good at the back, but you always bring out stats,” Zidane said after the draw against Celta Vigo, defending his selection of Marcelo “I’m happy with everyone for how they play and when they play. After taking the lead and five minutes towards the end conceding the draw, it’s not very good.”

It’s fortunate for Real Madrid that Barcelona are just as vulnerable as they are this season. The next few weeks and months will go a long way to determining how both teams’ campaigns will finish. Zidane must make sure his team learns from what happened against Celta Vigo on Sunday.

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Real Madrid growing into title race after shaky start to season

Had Real Madrid made the trip to the Basque Country to face Alaves even just a few weeks ago it’s likely they would have been dealt some sort of blow. Before the visit of Zinedine Zidane’s side on Saturday, Alaves had lost just one game at home (to Sevilla) all season long. They were in good form and fancied their chances of taking something from Real Madrid.

By full time, though, the capital club were celebrating a well-earned three points. The conditions at Mendizorrotza were atrocious, with heavy rain making the pitch a difficult surface to play on. This was the sort of game Real Madrid would have drawn or lost earlier in the season, but they are a different sort of group of players now.

Real Madrid have made real progress in recent weeks. The defeat to Real Mallorca at the end of October has proved to be a watershed for the club. Since then, the capital club have gone eight games without suffering defeat. They have played well over that spell, but they have also dug deep when required. It was required to claim the victory against Alaves on Saturday.

The result took Real Madrid to the top of La Liga and with Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid on Sunday night there’s a real chance that Zidane’s men will make that position stick beyond the weekend. This could prove to be a real turning point in their season.

While the malaise at Barcelona seems to grow with every match, with Ernesto Valverde coming under increasing pressure, Real Madrid are becoming more and more comfortable in their own skin. Zidane looked to be something of a dead man walking, in managerial terms, earlier in the season. Now, his squad appear to be fighting for him again.

Of course, there is a long way to go until the end of the season, but Real Madrid are more than playing their part in a title race that will surely witness many more twists and turns. They have absorbed a lot since the summer and look to be a better team and a stronger group of characters for it. That might serve them well as their contest with Barca at the top of La Liga goes down to the wire.

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Real Madrid finally finding momentum after sticky start to season

There were those who doubted Zinedine Zidane would even survive the last international break. The two-week break after the defeat to Real Mallorca left Real Madrid president Florentino Perez with a long time to fester on what was the club’s worst result of the season so far. If Real Madrid were making progress under Zidane, it was difficult to see it.

Since that defeat, though, the capital club have finally found their groove. There is a sense that Real Madrid are starting to build something, underlined by their comprehensive 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday and the sight of Zidane’s men at the top of La Liga for a few hours before Barcelona’s win over Celta Vigo on the same night.

Zidane is finally settling on a favoured lineup, most notably in the centre of the pitch. Luka Modric has returned from injury, but he is having to fight for his position alongside Toni Kroos, with Casemiro and Fede Valverde currently favoured for two of the three central midfield spots. Valverde in particular has been a revelation. The Uruguayan’s emergence at the Santiago Bernabeu is a big reason behind Real Madrid’s recent resurgence.

In attack, Rodrygo has electrified the Spanish and European game, scoring a hat-trick in the Champions League win over Galatasaray during the week. Indeed, the Brazilian teenager has become Real Madrid’s ‘Next Big Thing’ over the past weeks, making the position on the right side of Zidane’s front three his own.

Then there’s Eden Hazard. The Belgian has faced his critics since signing for Chelsea in the summer transfer window, with some even questioning his fitness levels. It is certainly true that Hazard has taken his time in growing accustomed to his new surroundings, but there are signs that he is starting to find his feet.

Hazard was at his sparkling best in the 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday. Most encouraging, from a Real Madrid point of view, is the understanding with Karim Benzema the Belgian seems to have developed. That is a relationship Zidane should seek to build around. It could be the key to Real Madrid’s season.

Since that defeat to Real Mallorca, Real Madrid have gone five games without conceding, scoring 16 in the process. Zidane was widely seen as a dead man walking when the last international break arrived. Now that we are heading into another international break, the last of the year, Zidane and his side have a very different complexion.

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Is Zidane the right choice for Real Madrid?

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No one could’ve predicted a scenario that saw Zinedine Zidane take over the Real Madrid hotseat just 10 months after he left it, but that’s precisely what’s happened in the aftermath of Los Blancos sacking their second coach this season, Santiago Solari.

The reasons could be many and though he’s not short of a euro or two, financial considerations will surely have played a huge part.

A promise from Florentino Perez that certain players will arrive or that Zidane will have a war chest of cash to go out and buy the very best is likely to be another. Continue reading

Are Man City wise to back out of Kovacic deal?

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After losing out on their top target, Jorginho, to Chelsea, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City expressed an interest in Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic.

The Croatian has made it clear that he sees his future away from the Santiago Bernabeu but Los Blancos are hugely reluctant to let him leave, despite the fact that his appearances have been sporadic since his transfer from Internazionale in 2015.

Julen Lopetegui needs time to assess his squad before the start of the new La Liga season and it’s perhaps for that reason that Real have slapped a prohibitive €90 million price tag on him. Continue reading

Madrid surrender two goal lead in final game of campaign


With an exciting La Liga season drawing to a close, we bring the spotlight onto our Game of the Week for one last time.

Our final Game of the Week saw Real Madrid surrender a two goal lead away from home in a thrilling tie at Villarreal that will live long in the memory of those present at Estadio de la Cerámica.

Having tested Fernandez’s handling twice early on, Madrid took the lead on 11 minutes through a driven effort from Gareth Bale – the winger captalising on some sloppy defending to give his side the lead.

The goal marked the Welshman’s 16th in 26 appearances for Los Blancos this season, a respectable return considering the run of injuries that plagued the early months of his season.

Madrid then doubled their lead in the 32nd minute when Marcelo picked up the ball on the left-hand side of the box before finding Cristiano Ronaldo with an outrageous outside of the foot cross, who duly headed home.

The header put the Portuguese striker on 26 goals in 27 games, a record that saw him land on 115 points for the season.

Madrid appeared to be on their way to a comfortable three points at the break but were to once again fall foul of the inconsistencies that have damaged them over much of the season.

Having put pressure on young Luca Zidane’s goal for much of the second half, the Madrid defence was breached on the 70 minute mark when Roger Martinez blasted home what was his first and only goal of the season to breathe life back into the tie.

The game was then blown open just five minutes before time when Samu Castillejo sprung the Madrid offside trap before calmly rounding Luca and sliding the ball into the offside trap.

The young keeper will undoubtedly believe he could have done more in the one-on-one situation but will have been more aggrieved with the manner in which his back line switched off at such a critical moment.

The goal saw Samu end the season on six following what has been a bright campaign that has yielded 50 points.

Despite a late flurry of activity from a stung Madrid side that peaked with a fine Benzema effort that forced a fine save from Fernandez, Madrid were unable to reinstate their lead.

The draw will have been a disappointing end to the domestic campaign for a Madrid side who would have liked to have finished on a high ahead of their prestige match against Liverpool in the Champions League final.

Failure to win in Kiev could see Zidane senior’s position as head coach at the Bernabeu come under considerable threat.

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Pretemporada negra


El Madrid empieza a calentar motores de cara a la temporada 2017/2018, sin embargo, lo que más se está calentando es la cabeza de Zidane a la hora de darle vueltas a su plantilla. De momento, no ha empezado con buen pie. Tras 4 partidos, no ha conseguido ni una sola victoria, pero lo más preocupante es que el juego no destaca por su brillo y porque la defensa hace agua con 9 goles en contra. De hecho, Barça y City le endosaron 3 y 4 goles respectivamente.

¿Cuáles han sido los fallos y cómo se explican?

  • Una defensa que es un coladero. El Madrid aún tiene mucho que mejorar. Por ejemplo, frente al Barcelona, si no hubiera sido por Navas, que fue de lo mejor del equipo, 3 goles se habrían quedado en poco.
  • Hay jugadores importantes, como Ronaldo, que todavía no se han incorporado al club. Y otros han llegado más tarde, los de la sub-21 tras el Europeo, como Asensio, Vallejo o Ceballos.
  • La falta de intensidad es notable. Este Madrid no presiona como hacía antes. Y, si no se corre con el balón en los pies o cuando lo tiene el rival, es lógico que el juego se vea seriamente afectado.
  • La mentalidad ganadora crea una mala confianza. Tras ganar la Champions y la Liga, la plantilla puede pensar que tiene mucho hecho para esta temporada. Pensar algo así solo puede traerle problemas.
  • El juego aéreo se ve seriamente comprometido. El Madrid está haciendo aguas en lo que era una de sus mayores virtudes. Las jugadas ensayadas de los rivales se están convirtiendo en goles. Otamendi y Piqué han anotando así un gol en las derrotas de los madrileños.
  • Los rumores. El entorno del Madrid se ha pasado el mes de julio hablando de posibles salidas, como las ya confirmas de James o Morata, pero también de las posibles llegadas, como la de Mbappé. Eso crea inestabilidad en el grupo, ya que algunos de sus jugadores no tienen muy claro su futuro.

Mucho que corregir de cara a las 2 supercopas (de Europa de España) y al inicio liguero.

Las 12 claves de la 12ª Champions


El Madrid ha ganado la Champions League por duodécima vez. ¿Cuáles son las claves de este éxito?

1. El tramo final de Ronaldo esta temporada
No ha sido el mejor año para Ronaldo… al menos hasta marzo. A partir de ahí, ha sido la pieza clave en cuartos, semis y la final con 10 tantos en esos encuentros clave.

2. Capacidad goleador de todo el equipo
No solo marca Ronaldo en el Madrid. Los blancos han demostrado que tienen más potencial ofensivo en las líneas más retrasadas. Esto permite más variables de disparo desde más posiciones para sorprender al rival. Continue reading